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SB Nation predicts the fatal flaw for every NFC contender

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Shanahan?

NFL: SEP 22 Steelers at 49ers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s accurate to call the NFC unpredictable after the first month of football. It’s amazing how much things can change week to week. Or how our opinions change after a team loses or wins. SB Nation wrote about the fatal flaw for all NFC teams while categorizing each team. “Winless, and therefore unworthy of a writeup.” “Heh, nope,” “Likely pretenders to the crown.” “They’ve still got plenty to prove.” “I want to trust you, but I’ve been hurt before.” “The seemingly safe(r) bets.”

The 49ers fell in the second tier, the trust tier. The only other team in the second tier? The Seahawks. Here’s the blurb on the Niners:

The 49ers are 3-0 — and their best win came over a disheveled Buccaneers team in Week 1. They’ve since beaten the Steelers and Bengals, who may have been winless in September if not for the fact they had to play each other. San Francisco has overcome plenty of adversity in its first three weeks, winning without injured players like Tevin Coleman, Jimmie Ward, Nick Bosa, and Dee Ford in the lineup for stretches. It’ll be much harder to carry on without them as the Browns(Week 5) and Rams (Week 6) loom on the schedule.

Fatal flaw: An offense that may not be able to keep this up. Garoppolo has been carving defenses up with a ton of play-action passes — 38 percent of his dropbacks, per ESPN. Those plays have broken open for more than 10.5 yards per attempt, but the Niners’ dwindling stock of tailbacks and the growing tape library on San Francisco’s 2019 suggest defenses will catch on to this strategy sooner rather than later. If that threat is taken away, can the 49ers’ line continue to provide one of the league’s lowest sack rates for its oft-injured QB?

Tampa Bay has looked much-improved on both sides of the ball.

We always said the best time to catch Tampa Bay was at the beginning of the season, with the changes to their coaching staff. I do like how the author noted how the 49ers have been short-handed themselves.

According to Football Outsiders charting data, the 49ers ran play-action 26% of the time last season for 9.1 yards per play. The league leader percentage-wise was the Rams at 36%. I’d expect the Niners to finish in the low 30s. Being the league leader in rushing attempts per game suggest that the 49ers won’t stop running or succeeding at play-action. Also, oft-injured QB, huh?

For me, penalties are the Niners’ fatal flaw. The team is good, but they’re not good enough to overcome the type of mistakes they have continually made in each game. We’ll see if that was a point of emphasis when they take the field against Cleveland. I’m not holding my breath. I’d like to see the 49ers string together a few games where they have fewer than five penalties. Then I’ll be convinced.

What do you think the fatal flaw is for the team?